Column: Post-Kennedy, the Rebels are better off moving forward

Posted on Feb 14 2018 - 8:00am by Ben Miller

A new era of Ole Miss basketball is on the horizon. Without Andy Kennedy at the helm of the basketball program, the Rebels will move forward in a new direction following the conclusion of this season. While there is currently no word on what that direction will be, this change is long overdue.

Kennedy’s departure should come as no surprise. To go from touting personal achievements and statistics at the beginning of the season to humbly declaring that the product on the court is his own fault a few weeks ago is more a product of fear than anything else. This season certainly humbled Kennedy, but now that he has resigned, it seems as though this change was only ever a tactic to preemptively soften his landing.

Going from a more combative tone to an apologetic one was a way to prevent a midseason firing for Kennedy. This humble and gracious version of Andy Kennedy would have made Ole Miss the bad guy if it fired him any sooner. Now, Kennedy will depart on his own terms after setting the tone and essentially beating the athletics department to the punch.

Ole Miss basketball is struggling. A lot. And in Kennedy’s own words after the Mizzou game, it is the head coach’s fault. He is the most successful head coach in Ole Miss history, statistically, but is currently experiencing the worst season of his career while having arguably the most talented roster he’s ever had. It is clear that his time is up. The program’s “win now” mentality cannot afford to wait around for recovery.

Moving in a new direction will be positive for the program through and through. Kennedy’s abrasive personality and coaching style has its benefits, but ultimately, he has seen the same decline that other coaches with similar styles have fallen victim to. Think Jim Harbaugh. This kind of coach lights a fire under his roster, makes people want to play well, attracts talent and attention from all over the world, but ultimately burns his players out after periods of success.

Perhaps he’s simply spent too much time in Oxford. Maybe it was just time for the SEC’s longest-tenured coach to move on and allow the program a fresh start. Regardless, fans should feel relieved. The “out with the old, in with the new” mentality will provide hope for a program that needs to fulfill dreams of March basketball. Having a fresh face at the helm of Ole Miss basketball will bring about a noticeable energy to the program, and the turnaround shouldn’t take long.

All speculation about the future aside, it should go without saying that the athletics department should try to sign a coach with a style different from Kennedy’s. Perhaps someone more subdued. Regardless of how “Kennedy’s guys” on the team feel about the eventual new hire, Ole Miss basketball needs a shock. Only time will tell who the school will call on to jumpstart the program’s flatlining heart.